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The role of honeybees in increasing agriculture and horticulture productivity needs to be recognised, says a new report submitted to the Prime Minister on Wednesday, arguing that landless beekeepers should be considered farmers in their own right.

The report was prepared by the Beekeeping Development Committee, set up by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister under the chairmanship of economist Bibek Debroy.

Based on the area under cultivation and bee forage crops, India has a potential for about 20 crore bee colonies as against the 34 lakh colonies that exist today, says the report. Promoting beekeeping could contribute to the Centre’s goal of doubling farmers income by 2022, it added.

India ranks eighth in the world in terms of honey production, almost 65,000 tonnes in 2017-18, of which 51,500 tonnes were exported. China leads the global pack, producing 5.5 lakh tonnes each year.

However, the report notes that “beekeeping cannot be restricted to honey and wax only, [as] products such as pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom are also marketable and can greatly help Indian farmers…Increasing the number of bee colonies will not only increase the production of bee-related products but will boost overall agricultural and horticultural productivity.”

The panel recommended the creation of national and regional infrastructure for storage, processing and marketing of honey and other bee products, along with clear standards and procedures for exports. Bee friendly flora should be planted and women self-help groups should be engaged to manage such plantations, it added.

Apiculture should be recognised as a subject for advanced research, and the National Bee Board rechristened as the Honey and Pollinators Board of India to strengthen bee development and create a honey price stabilisation fund, it said.

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By udaen

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